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tv   Charlie Rose  Bloomberg  September 2, 2014 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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>> from our studios in new york city, this is "charlie rose." >> the great fundamental issue now before our people, is are
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the american people fit to govern themselves, to rule themselves? i believe they are. >> doris kearns goodwin is here. she is a historian, author, so much more. her books have brought to life some of the most fascinating figures in america's history. when did teddy roosevelt and william howard taft first meet? >> they first meet in their 30's in washington. teddy is civil service commissioner and taft is solicitor general. they lived in the same part of washington and had kids the same age. they walked together to work. i love the image of them walking and taft listening to teddy. >> what is the difference in the size of these two men?
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>> taft would have been at a slimmer level, 250, 270. teddy weight in the 200's but he was 5'9", 5'10". taft is almost six feet tall but he is much bigger anyway. they would have looked shorter. >> what happens to their friendship? >> it lasted for a long time. in fact, teddy makes taft his successor in 1908 when he wasn't running again. he runs his campaign, gives him all the vice and the world. don't play golf, it is a rich man's game. fight, don't just answer. >> william jennings? >> right, he is so happy when taft wins. he says, taft will carry out my legacy. i trust no one more. he calls him a beloved person in his letters. teddy gives them space, comes back and his progressive friends tell him that taft hasn't been as honest to the legacy. and is cozying up to the regulars in the congress who he needed to get the tariff bill through. it was more complicated than that. he didn't know how to be a public leader. he screwed up things he tried to
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do to fulfill teddy's legacy. teddy comes back and he is missing being president. he ends up running against taft. >> and woodrow wilson wins. >> when they split the vote -- teddy and taft together get more than 50% of the vote. they split it and the democrat wins and wins the senate. >> and we have world war i. >> that is the way history happens. >> more about the friendship -- they were very different men. one loved the public eye. taft did not like the public eye. taft was much more cerebral. >> deliberative. i think what happened is, part of it is opposite attracting. teddy was so outdoorsy. taft hardly wanted to walk. teddy tried to drag him on these rock creek park exhibitions he would go on. he would just stay home. they shared from early on -- they were like new reformers. in the early corrupt age of the
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1890's, they both wanted to see politics out of civil service. they wanted to see regulation of government. they were considered new men. that is what they shared as young people. >> teddy roosevelt presided over a transition in america's public life. what was that? >> before teddy roosevelt, nothing really had been done to help the social and economic problems of the industrial age. you had this huge gap between the rich and the poor. it takes me so long to write these books. the echoes come back. middle-class class is being squeezed out. you have monopolies that are forming and not doing fairly by people. you have tenements and slums. they thought before teddy roosevelt that government had nothing to do with that. it would screw up the whole economy. he begins to have the modern presidency as the steward of the people. he enforces in a certain sense through public pressure to get congress to the first regulation of meatpacking, labor
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situations, antitrust suits. it is the modern world beginning. >> and you find correlation to today's age, also. as we have gone to a new age which is, you would call it the individual age. >> it is really incredible because what happens in the 1900's because of the inventions, the telephone, the telegraph, everything is speeded up. they talk about nervous disorders because the pace of life is so much bigger than it used to be before. you are not writing letters anymore. you are sending telegrams. you move from the country to the city and you no longer have the solace. you think about today -- the internet has speeded up our lives exponentially. >> there was this basic question, what is the role of government? that is still a big question. >> it was debated philosophically then. laissez-faire, the belief that the government should not interfere with economy was held
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with a religious fervor. it was not just a political ideology. the overwhelming majority of the people in politics believed that you would hurt this prosperous economy if you got involved in any way. that is why teddy had to use the bully pulpit, the word he defined, the national platform that a president has unlike any other political figure to educate the country as to why government had to be important in their lives. it was a big deal. >> he was the first person to use the bully pulpit. >> he loved reporters. if you were running around than as a tv guy or radio guy or print guy and he was having his our shaving, you would be in their taking pictures. >> he never feared that he thought they were necessary. >> he was a writer so he respected them. he knew that as long as he could accept their criticism, they would accept his criticism. he got mad at them if he wrote
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things that they wrote things he thought was stupid. they could argue with him in print. and say that he is done something -- instead of breaking the friendship, it kept going. >> john kennedy was a bit like that. >> it means you have got enough confidence in yourself to think, i need the public so i need the press. >> lyndon johnson never got that? >> no. a.b. in the early days he did when he was being treated well. after a while, once the press became negative, the friendship would be broken. >> think about it now, for women today. we can have those things. >> i was thinking about your son. the wonderful son you have and are so proud of. i remember. so then, there is the campaign.
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eventually, the only way teddy could justify his feelings of going against was to really exaggerate. betrayed him.ft he called him at a guinea pig with a small brain. was going after this very radical proposal that if they , it waslike a decision way over the edge. we thought a dictatorship might occur. when taft got mean to teddy, he felt bad. teddy loved the guy, of course. wondering, i felt sad what could've happened to the two of them after 1912 when they ran against each other. people tried to bring them together in 1914, 1916. but they were still mad at each
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other. >> so they never talked? >> never during that time. they met, but very coldly. in 1918, the year before teddy died, he was in hospital with an illness that teddy once had. teddy wrote him and said he knew what he was going through. note 1918, months before teddy died, taft went to the hotel in chicago and was going up in the elevator in the elevator operators said mr. roosevelt is in the dining room eating alone, so he went back down. there was a reporter there, thank odd. he goes into the room, there were 100 diners there, he goes over to teddy, says hello throws his arm around him and the entire restaurant clapped. >> that is so great.
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said to the reporter, i'm so glad this happened, i'm so glad we're friends again. some months later, teddy died full -- teddy died. . it is emotional. >> what happened to have to after that? >> the great thing that happens, he wanted to be a justice on the supreme court. he thinks he cannot leave his duty, he makes that choice. to go to the presidency. in 1921, he got appointed supreme court justice. he is happy the last decade of his life. he was in his 60's then. -- it was almost there for a decade until he died. the incredible thing about his weight is it goes up and down his whole life depending on his happiness.
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the presidency, he's back to 250 on the supreme court. when he did not need to be then, because he had a robe. his father was a judge, he loved being a judge. said, i got to see the world. my kids could always say their father had been president. i do not think he regretted it. >> how many presidents have we had the became supreme court justices? >> no one else. charles seven huge with a justice and ran for president, he would've been the other one had he won.
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>> "the bully pulpit, teddy roosevelt, william howard taft." >> we are conflicted with a moral issue. it is clear as the american constitution. the heart of the question is whether all americans ought to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities whether we are going to treat our fellow americans as we want to be treated. if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help the world see the final analysis of our most basic common link that we all inhabit the same planet, we breathe the same air, we cherish our children. >> it's been 50 years since president john f. kennedy was assassinated in dallas. joining me to discuss this man and his presidency, his legacy, robert dallek, a presidential historian and the author of
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"camelot's court." his previous book, an unfinished life. also, a senior lecturer and he also wrote a kennedy book called, "a profile of power." and jeff joins us, a political analyst and author of a new book, "if kennedy lived." and jill abramson, the executive editor of "the new york times." she has written a piece that's gotten a lot of attention called "an elusive president." and from washington, a presidential historian and regular contributor to "pbs newshour" and "nbc news." i'm pleased to have them all here this evening to reflect on president john f. kennedy. >> needless to say the fact that he was taken the way he did at the age of 46 adds to the drama. we would not be interested in this. the first comprehensive civil
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rights bill to congress saying everyone could use hotels, restaurants, other public leases, he interacts with the big issue domestically in a way that other leaders had not. once he was here, i would want jfk as my president because he was able to guide us through it. tens of millions of people have lost their lives as a result of the cuban missile crisis. he is a cultural icon as well. of the day, which we all know, is not everything the american role new, but the kennedys taught us how to be a rich country, how to dress, how to think about high culture.
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beyond that lives on political events. >> people do not remember what presidents do. do they even remember roosevelt and social security? about the anecdote guy who said he did not want the government messing with his medicare. what they remember is rhetoric. kennedy ask not what your country can do for you. the pride is back. i think they make connections in television. it is enormously important. if he were alive, he would be 96. if you walked into the room at this time, he would be one of us.
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he would still have a presence. >> he also had it to a little bit to easier then later presidents. when jeff was watching those press conferences in the afternoon, there were three networks. how many covered the press conferences? when he gave the cuban missile crisis speech, 90% of the country was watching. the president's voice in those days was so much louder and now it's almost impossible for president to do that no matter how good the rhetoric is. >> you said more was not known >> you said more was not known about his health. one of the undiscovered large issues of american history. >> it was a cover-up. ted kennedy told me he did not know that much about his
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brother's health until he read my book because that's how hidden the whole darn thing was. ted sorensen was serious at me because he's the one who signed off. it was a three-person committee. he let me into the medical records. he was angry at me. he said there was no cover-up. >> bobby knew about the amphetamines and about dr. feel good. most people did not know. >> it's not just a cover-up though. when i finished mr. dallek's fantastic biography and realized the breadth of the health problems it makes you see kennedy and a more heraldic life. -- her rohit light. -- heroic light. >> how bad was the health? >> it was very bad. he was hospitalized for 44 days a number of times in the late 1950's. >> given the last rites a few times? >> three times.
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>> a number of physicians i spoke to told me they don't know if he would have lived that much longer or well into his 50's. so, it was a serious issue. they hid the it. it.hey hid the day after he was elected, there was a press conference and someone asked the bobby kennedy, what about your brother's health? they were not going to fess up to the fact that this was a man to being on the edge. what saved him were the medications he was taking them. i don't think you could have functioned the way he did. >> how much of the way we feel today is attributed to his sense of history, his sense of public image, his sense of trying to control the image and a sense of friendship with journalism? >> i think all of those things.
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that was a term they actually used in those days but the interesting thing is the person who was perhaps more active in this was jackie kennedy. she comes back on the evening of the 22nd of november and already she was beginning to ink that jack only has two years and 10 months and robbed of the ability to be thought of as a great president and she literally began thinking about what the library should look like. she had this feeling since he had been robbed of the opportunity to write memoirs and do other things that she would have to go into the breach. for someone not a historian for particularly conversant it was almost a full-time thing for her for the next year. >> i am struck by his book, and
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i know this from jill, the idea about william manchester's book that she reportedly did not read it for a number of years. >> she did not read it until after she had gone to court to prevent the publication. she finally read it and pronounced it fascinating, which it is. >> we mention two big speeches. the civil rights speech and the american university commencement. what do they represent in terms of john f. kennedy? >> we do not elect presidents to manage the government. we elect presidents and heads of state to lead the nation. both he and reagan, and our lifetime, it was their rhetoric, their words, their manner that reached the american people. going back to what bob said about smaller events, nobody remembers whether lincoln balanced the budget. they are judged on two or three big things and usually it's a total surprise whether it is benghazi or bp and the gulf or whatnot. it's a reactive job.
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>> president kennedy definitely recognized the power of words. we can all agree on that and it is true that the 1965 civil rights act was passed by lyndon johnson and we don't know whether if he had lived, if kennedy would have achieved that, but in his speech on civil rights he did frame the issue as a moral issue, and that language and that word, had incredible impact. >> those two speeches you mentioned, they were game changers. the american university speech said, we have to rethink the way that we look at the soviet union. this comes after the cuban missile crisis. he and nikita khrushchev were both so frightened by the fact they came so close to a nuclear war and kennedy was so eager after that to get the nuclear test ban treaty with the
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soviets. he invited the americans to come, and they got that done overnight. they had been hassling about that for years. >> when he went to berlin, the conservatives make this point. he says that something we can get along with the soviet union. let them come to berlin. but a month later he is signing the test ban treaty. the game changer on both of those is how drastic a change it is, from 1960. if you read those speeches, you would think you are listening to one of the joint chiefs of staff. he was a temper rise are on civil rights. >> and the democrats in congress. >> in 1963 he says this is a moral issue. no president has ever said that.
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and the cold war frame has to be rethought. within 48 hours of each other. this is quite remarkable. >> we will get right back. >> harris offered during the 1960 campaigns, took the things that will get civil rights off the agenda. give me five minutes. that is the campaign. you are talking about those 48 hours, if you want one thing that tells you a lot about his leadership, it was those 48 because if he had come in with a big landslide in 1960 with a strong position in the house and senate, he would've given the speeches on the 21st of january or said those things in the inaugural interest. intellectually it was there when he became president. but this took two and a half years because he never wanted to the a liberal martyr, he wanted the political situation to ripen. bob is absolutely right about the missile crisis. this would change domestic opinion in this country so that
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americans, having been through the close call or more ready to think of a president who wanted a test ban treaty, and civil rights by the summer of 1963, when the revolution was in full swing and kennedy was able to say to the conservatives, people who were tepid about civil rights, the alternative to this is a revolution in the streets, let me at least pose a law that will take it back into the halls of government. >> let's talk about how he grew in office. he obviously learned. he learned from the bay of pigs. remembered the problem from the steel business. >> absolutely. i think that was the most bitter lesson of all. but with the bay of pigs, as an interesting historical info involving the new york times, the washington bureau actually got on to the fact that the bay of pigs invasion was intending, -- impending. kennedy went to the paper and asked them to withhold publication.
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and they did, and after everything went to pieces, in cuba, he actually said to scotty that he wished they had gone ahead and published the piece because it would have saved him from his worst mistake in office. >> not only from the mistake but it tells you something that is so important, that operation was supposed to be secret but it got so public it was getting to reporters and editors in washington and new york, he should have said, this should be shut down. >> are there are indications he may have changed in terms of vietnam -- >> yes. >> he was a president who won the election by 100 -- 118,000 votes.
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he is very concerned that if he does not let the bay of pigs operation go forward, the exiles would spill the beans and they would rip him up. he is weak and afraid. he does not have the guts to stand up to the soviets. there is tremendous pressure on him. >> what he learned was that he and khrushchev were both politicians. they just had a different system than we did. that is what connected them at the end of the missile crisis and of course, khrushchev paid the price because his own people saw this as a military maneuver when kennedy and khrushchev realized it was a political clash. >> the whole first year and a the -- the wall in berlin,
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thread in the eastern part. in vietnamreasons was to show he could stand up someplace. once the crisis is over, he stands with khrushchev on the precipice of disaster. was john kennedy, that was probably more true with anyone else. that here indications wanted to get into vietnam. >> in some -- and simulations, it there are signs that would've de-escalated. he said, we do not have a prayer of staying here. they are going to throw our acids out. -- they are going to throw us out. >> no one knows exactly what he would have done.
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the national feeling that to lyndon johnson put. i do not want to be the president to go to war. do not think kennedy would've ever got as far as lyndon johnson did, but he was not going to walk away either. >> if you take it from that point of view, kennedy keeps america out of harm's way, some of them get killed in 1954 just so that he can get to the election and win the election. it was donesure just for that reason. then you get to 1965. then he wants to get his big program through congress. and a lot of domestic bills were postponed until he hope to get elected with a landslide in the second term. he was trying to get bills through congress on education and poverty. that is the moment he is going
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to choose to withdraw from vietnam and take on this huge burden that you are selling out the country. i am not so certain. >> let's talk about bobby kennedy's relationship with the two brothers. have evere would not been elected president if bobby was not there. >> bobby never got invited upstairs to dinners. he was like a kid pressing his face against the restaurant wall. as important and as much as see generally trusted his brother, john kennedy had to be in control all the time, and that included with his own family and had some realho gaps in his political and historical knowledge. >> i think their relationship is captured in that iconic black-and-white photographs that shows him in shadow against the
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window. sadly, i do not think there has ever been a president with a close advisor like bobby kennedy was to his brother. >> i saw this is a guy walking -- working in kennedy's office long after bobby. if you are an outsider, there is do not donouns, they complete sentences. they know where they are going on things. >> it doesn't make the point about whether or not his advice was always good. >> what his determination to get a fixedastro, that was idea in his head. you do not know where this would
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in the missilese crisis, he did play a role of looking for alternatives. >> that was number one in camelot's court. >> yes. he did have a staff. they got into hot water over this. was important to him in that he could confide and talk to them in candid ways. it does not mean he was going to follow everything bobby said, which he did not. >> you spoke of the sense of almost a detachment. he almost diedt on several occasions. it is a critical point because it argues first that he probably would've never personalized a word the way johnson dead, but it also suggests that on
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domestic affairs, that detachment might have made a much less ambitious problem. kennedy imagine john pulling from great society. the detachment you speak of is also about how much she could accomplish as head of government. he would have shrunk from the kind of overstatement that lbj used hourly or by the minute. one thing i remember is that the great political scientist who was my revered mentor at college, wrote the first biography of john kennedy in 1959. one of the things he said was that a lot of people that the time felt that john kennedy is -- at hise who's funeral strangers would cry. look at how long he came. >> that sent a shiver down my spine, because the tears that were shut at his actual funeral
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collectively, the country's sadness at kennedy's death is unparalleled national grieving. to theas such a blow country's sense of safety and youth. took the promise away from the country. it hit them in the gut. >> i remember. >> we were out there. in a way, whatever experience one wants to believe, there was a culture of assassination in the kennedy administration. castro andy with mr. then the deaths of other people. be --t, he turns out to who turns out to be a victim but the man who created that culture. such a less violent culture. whatever was going on in the bowels of the cia or white
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had onlye prime rate begun its rocket blast through the 60's and 70's. people do not do such things. gobbler, --m had a we will never laugh again. we will laugh again, we'll just never be -- >> >> she supposedly said, there will be great presidents again, but there will not a camelot. next she may not have been doing him a great service at the end, we were talking about the fact that the pendulum had spun away from the adulation of kennedy.
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by suggesting that metaphor of camelot, she was setting him up for the later revision. we judge presidents on this. it is a reactive job, the question is, what can you do? the question of judgment, do you have to be -- where to start my come from? it therefore an argument for a lot of experience? you could argue about harry truman and barak obama. truman governed by instinct with a deep knowledge of history that people did not really know he had. barack obama, who i certainly like, tries to do it by intellect and analysis and what is logical. and politics is not logical. is going you judge who to make a good president before they are president?
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>> you cannot. >> who is the most experience we have ever had in terms of dealing with washington? lyndon johnson. the worlddgment about was thin and lacking and i think helped lead us to -- >> the kennedy hadis that probably gone across the atlantic van johnson had been across the potomac. >> the difference with grandiosity. kennedy, his grandiosity was to >> most important thing about him is he did not wait his turn. he destroyed the system that would not have made him president. now in america, no one does. >> thank you all. ♪
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